The Training Continues

I joined the track team when I was freshman in high school and was immediately identified as a potential high hurdler. To be a good hurdler you have to know how to A: Start in starting blocks; B: sprint using proper form; and C: jump over each hurdle without breaking stride or slowing down. Before receiving any training I did not know how to do any of these things. As just a 14 year-old, pretty fast, natural athlete I could have run the 45-meter high hurdles (my best event) in about 9.0 seconds. To compete for the State Championship I would need to run it in about 6.5 seconds. However, after just a month of training I knew how to start in the starting blocks, how to sprint properly (on my toes as opposed to flat-footed), and how to jump the four hurdles while staying in stride. I could now run the event in about 7.5 seconds. It would take me the rest of my high school track career to shave that extra second off.

While I certainly spent much of that time growing, getting stronger, and improving my technique, most of what I learned to do was mental. The question was not how to jump those hurdles as fast as I could, the question was how did I jump the hurdles, what did I do with my unique internal thoughtscape to focus my attention entirely where it needed to be. It was a fast race; the slightest wobble in your focus and you lost .2 of a second.

Writing is not so different. I recently found a short story I wrote when I was 19. It was pretty good. In fact, much of it on a scene-to-scene, sentence-to-sentence level was polished enough to publish. I wasn’t some prodigy; I’d just been working on my craft for a bunch of years and it showed. But I did not sell a book at 19, or 20, or 21, or for many years after that because what I still had to learn was how to work with my thoughts, my unique mental landscape when I sat down to write. That would be my real challenge and it still is. Once you have your craft you cannot lose it; but the smallest thought of doubt can pull you off the course of your story and you are lost until you learn your way back.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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